The bullying by Greece’s creditors continues. The latest ploy is to try, unilaterally, to interfere in Greece’s internal politics by re-defining the terms and purpose of Sunday’s referendum. It is patently clear that Tsipras called the referendum to ask the Greek people whether they accepted the latest bailout terms laid down by the creditors, yet the Eurozone 3 – Merkel, Hollande, and Juncker – are now claiming, on no evidence at all, that the referendum is about whether or not Greece wishes to stay in the Euro. It is no such thing. The technical question Greeks have to answer doesn’t even mention the single currency. The Eurozone leaders clearly fear that Syriza will win the referendum, and this clumsy attempt at interference is clearly designed to blackmail Greek voters into accepting the latest terms for a bailout extension. It won’t work.
The Eurozone line is that these bailout terms are final and there’s nothing further on offer. But of course that’s not true. They would say that, wouldn’t they? This is an extremely tense negotiation reaching its climax, and the participants will lay down conditions to try by any means to gain a settlement on their terms, saying for good measure that it’s their last offer, only to retreat to new terms and a new offer if their ‘final’ offer is rejected. In this case the cat is already out of the bag. The European Commission stated yesterday – for the first time in this long-drawn-out crisis, that it wanted to offer Greece debt relief. That is precisely what Tsipras has been demanding for 5 months throughout the stalemated negotiations. So why wasn’t this offered 5 months ago, and this whole crisis could have been averted?
It wasn’t offered then, and is only being offered now, because the most powerful interests within the Eurozone – the hardliner Merkel and the German banks – were determined to enforce their own principles of ordoliberalism on a compliant European economy, and thought they had the muscle to do so. It is only now when they fear that Tsipras’ latest move means they have lost control of the negotiations that they are hinting in the background that there could after all be a further compromise. Their reason of course is not concern about Greece which has suffered a 25% shrinkage of the economy comparable only to the Great Depression in the US in the 1930s, but rather about the future of their pet project, the Euro, which is the basis of German hegemony in Europe because in the long term no other country in the Eurozone can match German productivity, yet is precluded from regaining equilibrium via interest rate and exchange rate changes.
If the long-term unviable Euro is to survive, it must respect democracy equally, or more than, market power and in the immediate short-term re-open negotiations on the essential condition of a partial write-down of Greek debt (which currently at 180% of GDP even the IMF has pronounced is unmanageable) to a level consistent with economic growth (120% of GDP or below).